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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Can Sexually Harassing Facebook Messages Contribute To Creating A Sexual Hostile Environment?

Sexual harassment at work

For more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys have fought for the rights of sexual harassment victims. Through their extensive experience representing sexual harassment victims, our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment lawyers know that sexual harassers often target their victims through social media. Although employers generally argue that they cannot be held liable for the social media communications of their employees, courts have determined that employees are protected from sexually harassing social media communications and employers must protect their employees from known sexually harassing social media communications. In this article, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys explain how the decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in Batayias v. The Mechanical Shop, Case No. 4:19-cv-00015 (S.D. Ga. July 14, 2020) illustrates that sexually harassing social media communications can contribute to the creation of a sexually hostile work environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law.

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

In that case, a woman named Batayias (Batayias) brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer, The Mechanical Shop (TMS), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII makes sexual harassment an unlawful employment practice. Sexual harassment violates Title VII when the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment. Batayias contends that TMS violated Title VII by requiring her to work in a sexually hostile environment.

In April 2017, Batayias began working for TMS as a welder. At the end of her first day on the job, Batayias checked her cellphone and found that one of her co-workers, a man named Vescelus, had sent her several messages through Facebook’s messenger function. The messages from Vescelus included comments about Batayias’ appearance and a request that Batayias have sex with him. Either that day or the next, Batayias told two foremen about the Facebook messages. She asked that they keep Vescelus away from her. For the rest of the week, Batayias and Vescelus worked in different areas.

The next week, however, Batayias was required to work with Vescelus. When Batayias arrived at her new work area, Vescelus began mouthing “I love you” at her. Batayias says this occurred multiple times. A few days after this, Vescelus touched Batayias’ buttocks while she was welding. Batayias reported this incident to another foreman who allegedly did nothing to address her concerns. After Batayias threatened to file a grievance with her union about the unwanted sexual behavior, TMS moved Vescelus to another work area where he was not near Batayias for the rest of the workday. At the end of the same day, Vescelus touched Batayias’ chest. The next day, Batayias lodged a sexual harassment complaint with one of the owners of TMS. Two days later, TMS fired Vescelus.

Facebook Messages Part Of Hostile Environment

TMS filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Batayias’ sexual harassment claim. In support of its motion for dismissal, TMS argued that Batayias could not establish that the alleged harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute unlawful sexual harassment in violation of Title VII. The trial court denied TMS’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Batayias was entitled to proceed to a jury trial on her sexual harassment claim.

In finding that the sexual harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to violate Title VII, the trial court observed that “Vescelus inappropriately touched [Batayias] on two occasions—once on her buttocks and once on her chest.” “These incidents,” the trial court pointed out, “occurred within the same two-week period where Vescelus also sent [Batayias] a Facebook message requesting sexual intercourse and mouthed ‘I love you’ at her multiple times.” Thus, the trial court determined that the sexually harassing Facebook messages contributed to the creation of a sexually hostile work environment. Based on this verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature, the trial court concluded that Batayias had “presented adequate evidence that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a discriminatorily abusive working environment.”

Free Case Evaluation & Consultation

One of the most important decisions that sexual harassment victims must make is deciding which employment lawyers to consult with about their legal rights. At our employment law firm, an experienced employment attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations and you will never have to pay to speak with our employment lawyers regarding your rights as a sexual harassment victim. We are available for consultation at your convenience and are able to schedule telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.

Marion County Sexual Harassment Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida, and representing workers throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida sexual harassment lawyers have dedicated their practice to representing sexual harassment victims. If an employer has required you to work in a sexually hostile environment or you have questions about your protection from sexual harassment under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida sexual harassment attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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